If you’ve ever watched an NFL game before last Sunday night, you’ve probably seen coaches talking to players on the sidelines with a binder full of blurry black and white printed pictures. If you happened to watch the Pre-Season opener – the Hall of Fame game between the New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills – you may have seen something quite different. Following their recent announcement of a robust on-field player tracking system, the NFL have also announced a partnership with Microsoft to provide Surface tablets to every team in the league.
The partnership – for a reported 5 years and $400 million – will provide league-owned Microsoft Surface tablets to every team in the league, as outlined by SFGate:
Each team will have 13 Surfaces on the sidelines and 12 in the coaches box. The league owns and operates the tablets, which run on a secure wireless network. The devices will be locked in a temperature-controlled cart between games to prevent any team from manipulating the information.
The league’s competition committee placed restrictions on the Surface tablets: They can display only still images, not video, and they won’t have Internet access.
“We want to make sure the players are deciding wins and losses, not technology,” Luckin said.
And the sideline printers aren’t being sacked just yet. They’ll remain for coaches who aren’t ready to tackle the digital images.
“If I’m a coach and I’ve won multiple Super Bowl championships with this perfectly usable paper system, it would be a disadvantage to take that away from me if I don’t want to use this,” Luckin said. “We’re keeping the playing field level.”
Needless to say, you won’t see your favorite quarterback playing Angry Birds, or any number of players searching for legal advice on the sidelines during games. This system should, however, provide quicker access to the same types of images – only in a much higher quality – that coaches have been using for years. The Surface tablets will also allow for several images to be easily compared, and coaches/players can draw on the images and save them for later viewing.
Aside from the obvious publicity from seeing the light blue cases emblazoned with “Surface” all over the sidelines, Microsoft is getting a few other perks from this deal. Microsoft’s XBox Live service is gaining some new functionality including game highlights and fantasy football information, as well as access to NFL Sunday Ticket, breaking DirecTV’s exclusivity to the service.
Coaches and players aren’t the only ones getting new toys either. SFGate explains that the zebras will have some new communication systems as well:
Officiating crews will have their own wireless communications network so they can confer on penalty calls without having to huddle, or one having to run yards downfield to talk to another. International soccer referees have long had similar setups.
And on-field officials will be able to talk directly with instant-replay officials at NFL headquarters in New York, McCarthy said.
It’s nice to see the NFL take some steps into the present. They’ve been very slow to adopt any sort of technology in the past, so this influx of tech has been exciting to see! Now if only they could work on keeping their players out of trouble off the field…
What do you think about adding tablets to the sidelines? Let us know in the comments, or on Google+, Facebook, or Twitter.
Featured image courtesy IGN.